When Your Child Leaves Home- Worries of a Mother
You know it will happen one day. You also know that there is nothing you can do about it. Nevertheless, when the day does come no amount of psychological preparation can take the bite off the pain.
Babies will grow. They will be teenagers and eventually they. Will. Leave. Home.
Even as preparations were in motion for my son to go abroad for work and study everything in me was screaming no!
“He is too young!” I pleaded with anyone who would listen.
“It’s unsafe!” (We had heard of terrible stories about Islamophobia) and
“how will he take care of himself?!”
I knew better, of course, and as much as I was worrying about him I was more worried about how I would cope if anything- Allah forbid- should happen to him.
I bargained with my husband and my mother with whom he was travelling. ” He can go when he is older, I promise.”
Birds of a Feather
Needing reassurance from others whose children have also left home I reached out to other women. Some of whom had sent children to places as far flung as China.
Mum reminded me that she had let me grow my own wings and go to university 12 hours away by road. That, too, at a time when local politics threatened to disrupt the peace and she had still let me go.
My worries about everything and anything made me lose sleep. There was path growing by now between my room and his- there was still so much I needed to guide and advise him about.
Words of Wisdom
I wondered whether I had remembered to tell him not to accept any packages from strangers at the airport.
“Be very frugal with every penny you make,” I told him several times. Then returned a few minutes later to tell him not to forget to always put Allah first.
I warned him about the dangers of fast food and how he was to send me a text if he was unsure of the ingredients in his shampoo. He had a small book he was keeping notes in, I found out later.
He himself was excited but subdued, no doubt wondering what lay ahead for him without me, his father or siblings.
Through it all, hubby remained stoic. After all, we still had to take care of practical matters. So out he went to buy almost everything that would be needed before, during and after the journey. Then bought copies and spares just in case.
It was not that we did not have faith in our boy. Or that he was so helpless that he needed us to micromanage everything about his life. Show me a parent who does not want for his children what he himself never had.
Point out a parent who will, willingly, allow his child to suffer if there was a better way than that.
Introduce me to a mother who does not wonder whether her child is happy and fulfilled even if that child is legally an adult.
The only time our son had been more than half an hour away from us was when he had asked if he could attend the wedding of his best friends’ sister in the capital city- again 12 hours by road. It had been just for the weekend but for his father and me it had seemed an eternity.
We are very strict about our kids having phones before they finish high school. Nevertheless, we readily handed our boy our very best smartphone in the event that he needed us and besides, what if a dumb phone failed him?
He good naturedly let us ask him things that were obvious even when we repeated them again and again.
Kids in our community live sheltered lives going from home to school to madrasa to the masjid and back home again. We closely monitor their friends and track their whereabouts. We don’t want our boys falling in with the wrong crowd.
So come D-Day and I hold up quite well. But I lose it when my mum and baby boy are ready with their luggage and it is time to say goodbye. I bawl my eyes out as my nephews hug their cousin and wish him well. They promise him he will come back a better man but I don’t care.
As childish as it might seem, I want my baby home. I need to know he is safe and eating right and not falling in with the wrong crowd even though I know his father and I have raised him right.
I am aware that every child needs to make mistakes and learn from them in order to grow. I know, too, that my child is courageous and assertive also all the while being unsure of himself sometimes. My son has a kindness that endears him to people and brings tears to my eyes. He also has a healthy respect for himself and for those he interacts with.
But even knowing that my boy has the skills to help him survive does not make him leaving any easier.
No Holiday Cheer
The house seemed big and empty returning from the airport.
None of us had the desire for any dinner or an outing in spite of it being the peak of the holiday season. Even a trip to our favourite mall could not cheer us up even though Hubby tried.
All I wanted was to know my son had reached his destination safely. Knowing that that call would come after two days because he was travelling to a different time zone, I settled in for the long wait.
How do all the parents who routinely do this survive it? I wondered. Here I was feeling drained and exhausted already.
Hubby kept going to his son’s room and resting on his bed. Frequently, while closing up for the night, he paused to ask if his first born was already home or still at the masjid. That had been our routine up until then.
It Gets Easier
When the call came 48 exhausting hours later, I heaved a sigh of relief.
That night I slept soundly for the first time in months. Hubby, on the other hand, picked up the worry that I had put down. He worried how his boy would find the culture shock or how he would react to the sometimes very brutal winters. What if he hates the cold?
As the weeks, then the months then years passed we learnt to adjust.
But holidays and family events are never the same when one member is missing even with modern technology making it possible to share the special moments. We don’t want to just send him videos and photos- we want him in them.
Today, exactly four years later, my son is thriving in his new country, Allah be praised. He is living on his own, holding down a job while putting himself through school.
His father and I could not be more proud of him.
People often ask me- the way I asked others -about children leaving home. I tell them that it is one of the hardest things I have ever had to face. But I have never regretted letting our boy go.[More…]